20 poetry books (and more) that keep me in love with poetry

What are 20 poetry books, CDs, readings, memoirs or video recordings that made you fall in love with poetry, the stuff that made you think: I want to do this, I need to do this. What are the influences that kept you going? Don’t put down the stuff that you think you’re “supposed,” to like, but list the core ones, the ones that opened all of this up for you.

NOTE: The original meme (from Eduardo Corral’s blog) only mentioned books but I’m not down with limiting poetry to just what’s found in books. ¿Tu sabes?

20 Poetry Books (in no particular order)
1. Where a Nickel Costs a Dime by Willie Perdomo
2. Alabanza: New and Selected Poems 1982-2002 by Martín Espada
3. Burning Down the House: Selected Poems from the Nuyorican Poets Cafe’s National Poetry Slam Champions by Roger Bonair-Agard, Stephen Colman, Guy LeCharles Gonzalez, Alix Olson, and Lynne Procope
4. Bum Rush the Page: A Def Poetry Jam, edited by Tony Medina and Louis Reyes Rivera
5. So Often the Pitcher Goes to Water Until It Breaks by Rigoberto González
6. Sonnets from the Puerto Rican by Jack Agüeros
7. The Latin Deli: Prose and Poetry by Judith Ortiz Cofer
8. Aloud: Voices from the Nuyorican Poets Cafe, Edited by Miguel Algarín and Bob Holman
9. Martín & Meditations on the South Valley by Jimmy Santiago Baca
10. Poeta en San Francisco by Barbara Jane Reyes
11. Uprock Headspin Scramble and Dive by Patrick Rosal
12. Veinte Poemas de Amor y Una Cancion Desesperada de Pablo Neruda
13. Blood Dazzler by Patricia Smith
14. A Poetry Handbook by Mary Oliver
15. The Iceworker Sings and Other Poems by Andrés Montoya
16. Poeta en Nueva York by Federico García Lorca
17. Border-Crosser with a Lamborghini Dream by Juan Felipe Herrera
18. The Splinter Factory by Jeffrey McDaniel
19. The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros
20. Crazy Melon and Chinese Apple by Frances Chung

10 Recordings (in no particular order)
1. The United States of Poetry: Created by Joshua Blum and Bob Holman (DVD)
2. Reading and Commentary at Harvard University: William Carlos Williams (MP3)
3. NYC Slams: Taylor Mali, Beau Sia, Roger Bonair-Agard, Bassey Ikpi, Guy LeCharles Gonzales, Cristin O’Keefe Aptowicz, Yolanda K. Wilkinson, Morris Stegasorus, Kirk Nugent, Felice Belle, Lynne Procope, Marty McConnell, and Bryonn Bain (CD)
4. Palabra: A sampling of contemporary Latino writers from the SFSU Poetry Center: Octavio Paz, Gloria Anzaldua, Jimmy Santiago Baca, Jose Montoya, Lorna Dee Cervantes, Victor Hernandez Cruz, Carlos Fuentes, Gary Soto, Francisco Alarcon, Ernesto Cardenal, Lucha Corpi, Luis Rodriguez, Bernice Zamora, Ana Castillo, Juan Felipe Herrera, Demetria Martinez, Elba Sanchez (VHS)
5. Now the Dead Will Dance the Mambo: Martín Espada (CD)
6. 5 past 13: A Little Bit Louder vol. 1: Suheir Hammad, Patricia Smith, Bob Holman, Staceyann Chin, Cheryl Boyce-Taylor, Willie Perdomo, Dawn Saylor, Emanuel Xavier along with Elana Bell, Oscar Bermeo, Roger Bonair-Agard, Peter James Conti, Edward Garcia, Guy LeCharles Gonzalez, Sabrina Hayeem-Ladani, Stephen Maher, Marty McConnell, Raymond Daniel Medina, GinnaKarla Nicolas, Ishle Yi Park, Lynne Procope and Rachelle Street (CD)
7. Smoking Lovely: Willie Perdomo (CD)
8. A Natural History of Chicano Literature: Juan Felipe Herrera (YouTube)
9. From a Reading at San Francisco State University, 4 March 1965: Amiri Baraka (MP3)
10. SlamNation: Directed by Paul Devlin (DVD)

10 Live Poetry Readings (in no particular order)
1. Open Mic at “a lil bit louder” (Bar13, NYC) August 13, 2001
2. Martín Espada at the Acentos Bronx Poetry Showcase (Bruckner Bar & Grill, the Bronx) October 13, 2005
3. Jimmy Santiago Baca at the Alameda Juvenile Justice Center (San Leandro) and the Cesar Chavez Library (Salinas) November 6 & 8, 2008
4. Robert Bly, John Hammond, Alan Kushan, Elizabeth Bassford, John Rodriguez, Raymond Daniel Medina, Mara Jebsen and Abena Koomson at the WORD Festival (Lehman College, the Bronx) October 25, 2003
5. Nathaniel Mackey and Hafez Modirzadeh at the deYoung Poetry Series (deYoung Museum, SF) September 7, 2007
6. In The Grove: Pákatelas, Book Release Party and Homage to Andrés Montoya (Arte Américas, Fresno) April 10, 2008
7. Willie Perdomo’s Smoking Lovely book release tour (Various venues throughout NYC) October-November, 2003
8. The National Poetry Slam 2002 (Minneapolis, MN) August 13-17, 2002
9. Amiri Baraka at the Holloway Series, Lunch Poems, and Cave Canem/Poetry for the People readings (UC Berkeley) October 31 & November 1, 2008
10. Pink Pony West featuring Oscar Bermeo and Rich Villar (Cornelia Street Café, NYC) August 26, 2005

3 Memoirs (in no particular order)
1. A Place to Stand by Jimmy Santiago Baca
2. Down These Mean Streets by Piri Thomas
3. Always Running by Luis J. Rodriguez

Join the Conversation


  1. I realize I’m coming late to this post, but thanks for putting in albums and (particularly) readings that have kept you in love with poetry.

  2. Each one of these lists I check reminds me of who or what I left out. A Place to Stand is one of those books that have different levels of profundity. Ex: You obviously don’t have to have gone to prison to relate to those dramatic transformations. I have a list of favorite recordings of poets to chip in (didn’t Where a Nickel Costs a Dime come with a CD?):
    Amiri Baraka-It’s Nation Time
    Amiri Baraka-New Music, New Poetry
    New York Art Quartet w/Amiri Baraka (pattern here?)-35th Anniversary
    tons of other Baraka appearances on musicians’ albums
    Williams Carlos Williams Reads His Poetry
    K. Curtis Lyle-The Collected Poem for Blind Lemon Jefferson
    George Oppen-Of Being Numerous
    Nathaniel Mackey-Strick
    Mikey Smith-Mi Cyaan Believe It
    Kamau Brathwaite-The Arrivants
    Much of the Last Poets discography
    Camille Yarborough-Iron Pot Cooker
    Jayne Cortez-Celebrations and Solitudes and numerous other recordings she’s made over the years
    Wallace Stevens Reads
    Kamau Daaood-Leimert Park
    If I made a list of memoirs/essays by poets, I would go on forever.

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